DNA Match Profile: The Saintsbury family of Castle Combe

UPDATE. January, 2022. Y-DNA testing indicates Richard Sainsbury of north Somerset was born in Urchfont, Wiltshire in 1708. Any speculation in this post that suggests otherwise is therefore obsolete. It remains online as a record of this research project.

UPDATE JAN. 30, 2020. The family trees of the Anne Sainsbury Lessiter matches described in this post were investigated to see if they might share a common ancestor on a “non-Sainsbury” line. That proved to be the case. Their common ancestor was likely Joseph Holbrook, born in Somerset around 1750, died in Chew Stoke, Somerset in 1819. However, the research principles described in this post remain true.

After searching the Ancestry DNA matches of more than a dozen Somerset Sainsbury cousins for anyone with a Sainsbury or Saintsbury in their tree, the cluster with the most duplicate matches is the Saintsbury family that originated in Castle Combe, Wiltshire in the 17th century.

We discovered a group of three descendants of the Castle Combe Sainsburys (usually spelt “Saintsbury” in the church records) who each match two of our cousins. This is significant because out of more than 100 matches to Sainsbury descendants on Ancestry only these 9 are matched by more than one Somerset Sainsbury cousin.

This table shows those Ancestry users who had more than one match to one of our cousins and the cluster assigned to them to help organize our results by time and place:


The Matches

A descendant of each of these three 18th-century Saintsbury siblings shares a genetic match with a pair of Somerset Sainsbury cousins:

Anne Sainsbury Lessiter (1745 abt. 1750 – 1824)

Anne Sainsbury (bap. 1745, Nettleton, Wiltshire) married William Lessiter in Kington St. Michael, Wiltshire in 1779. A pair of 2nd cousins in the US, whose shared Sainsbury ancestor is Harriet Sainsbury (b. 1816, Congresbury, Somerset) are a shared match to a Canadian descendant of Anne and William Lessiter. Anne was the daughter of William Saintsbury  (bap. 1690 1688, Castle Combe, Wiltshire) and his wife Mary Askew or Asque.

UPDATE: November 25, 2019. Although many family trees on Ancestry and other sites indicate that Anne’s father’s name was William and align her with these Castle Combe Sainsburys, that parentage is disproved by Anne’s marriage license bond and her will. For the latest information about this match see this blog post: Seeking Triangulation: Anne Sainsbury of north Wiltshire.

William’s family had been in Castle Combe since the mid-1660s. His grandparents, Joseph and Ann (or Agnes) Saintsbury, had at least seven children in Castle Combe in the mid-17th century. His parents, Anthony Sainsbury and Mary Sisam, had at least 8 children between the late 1670s to the early 1690s.

Joseph Sainsbury, Sainsbury, Saintsberry (1734 – ?)

Joseph (bap. 1734, Nettleton, Wiltshire) was the son of William Saintsbury  (bap. 1690 1688, Castle Combe, Wiltshire) and his wife Mary Askew or Asque.

He married Sarah Cox in Marshfield, Gloucestershire in 1762 and had a son named Job (bap. 1769, Marshfield). Job’s descendants lived in the Foxcote area of Somerset. One of his Australian descendants is a shared match to two Somerset Sainsbury fourth cousins (one in Canada, one in England) whose common Sainsbury ancestor is John Sainsbury (b. 1804, Congresbury, Somerset).

Betty Saintsbury Barrington (1733 – ?)

William and Mary had another daughter, Betty Saintsbury (bap. 1733, Nettleton), who married Isaac Barrington in 1752 in Hullavington, Wiltshire. One of their Australian descendants (although the line is somewhat hypothetical) is a match to two three Somerset Sainsbury cousins (4th cousins, once removed, one of whom also shares DNA with the descendant of Anne Sainsbury and William Lessiter mentioned above). The common Sainsbury ancestor of these three Somerset Sainsburys is John Sainsbury (b. 1782, Yatton, Somerset).


Taken together, these shared matches suggest a genetic relationship between William Saintsbury of Castle Combe and Nettleton, Wiltshire and our ancestor, Richard Sainsbury (b. ? c. 1720?) of North Somerset.


Sheer volume

No other cluster generated by our search for Sainsbury descendants has as many members that match as many pairs of cousins from “our” side of the Wiltshire-Somerset border as this Castle Combe group.

An unusual given name

Families often re-used given names through the generations and this can be a clue to kinship. Anthony is a particularly unusual name among Sainsbury families in the 18th century. In fact, a quick search of the indexed parish baptism and burial records for Wiltshire from 1538 to 1812 reveals only four Anthony Sainsburys (or variant spellings) in the whole county:

  1. An Anthony was buried 6 Jul 1660 Castle Combe (son of Joseph Saintsbury, progenitor of the Castle Combe family)
  2. An Anthony was buried 8 Aug 1672 Trowbridge (possibly related to the Castle Combe family)
  3. An Anthony was baptised 10 Feb 1683 Castle Combe and buried 9 Aug 1717 Castle Combe (cousin brother of William of Castle Combe)
  4. An Anthony was baptised 25 Feb 1694 Market Lavington and buried 25 Jun 1715 Market Lavington

Despite the rare occurrence of the name Anthony among 17th- and 18th-century Sainsburys, our Somerset ancestor gave this name to one of his sons — likely his first-born.

A gap in births

Given these DNA matches to members of this Castle Combe family, is there any way our Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, could have been born into this family? And if so, could he have been part of this family in a way that would connect him more closely with any member of the family named Anthony?

William’s cousin brother was Anthony Saintsbury baptised in Castle Combe in 1683. (He is Anthony number 3 on the above list.) There is a gap in the baptisms of his children between 1710 and 1716. This gap, indicated by the grey box with question mark in this tree, holds out the possibility that our Somerset Sainsbury ancestor was an unbaptised child of Anthony and Grace Saintsbury of Castle Combe:



No documentation

There is no documentation to indicate whether the theory that Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset is a child of Anthony and Grace Saintbury of Castle Combe is true. It is only one of many theories that can be developed based on our DNA matches to explain the immediate family origins of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset who married Mary Willis in Portbury in 1745.

Competing clusters

Other sets of shared matches among our Somerset cousins suggest genetic connections to other Sainsbury families in other parts of Wiltshire in the early 18th century. Whether those connections are closer or more distant to the link suggested by these Castle Combe matches is difficult to say at this point.

However, the fact remains that our project has revealed other clusters of matches to other Sainsbury families in 18th-century Wiltshire — each with their own strengths and weaknesses as genetic evidence about our family’s point of origin.

Those other clusters will be the subject of future DNA Match Profiles on this blog.

10 thoughts on “DNA Match Profile: The Saintsbury family of Castle Combe

  1. Hi Mike – you left a comment on my Photo Blog today and in my reply I’d said our ancestors came from different places, but now I’ve had time to peruse your blog further, I see that we do indeed share the same ancestor Richard Sainsbury [my 4x Gt Grandfather] in Somerset. I’m a bit confused though as I don’t seem to have you as a match for my DNA, unless I’ve missed it, and I checked to see if we had contact in the past {my poor old memory isn’t what it used to be] but that isn’t so either. Can you enlighten me?


    1. Hi Eileen, My father’s test on Ancestry is “R. Sainsbury”. I’ve been working on this history with Dave in Ontario. He let me know about your beautiful photography! Our most recent shared ancestor is John Sainsbury, born in 1782. I’m from a branch descended from his second wife, Sarah Jones.


  2. Hi again Mike! So sorry – I’ve only just seen your reply . How nice to hear that my photographic offerings are ‘in the loop’ so to speak – it makes it all worthwhile somehow 😁📷😍. I had taken note of your father’s name but don’t know if I contacted him at all! The memory isn’t what it used to be I’m afraid.🤔
    I still haven’t quite got the grasp of making the best use of my DNA results and find a lot of it puzzles me – so many cousins, distant or near , yet hardly any matching surnames, apart from Sainsbury, it hardly seem to have been worth getting it done, apart from seeing where my roots are and no real surprises there!
    I’d been hoping to break down a huge long-standing brick wall too. But I can’t expect much with a gt grandfather named John Smith and I haven’t a clue where he was born or who his parents were
    Not to worry though as I guess everyone else has impossible brick walls too!
    I must say I admire your dedication to the task you’ve set yourself. It’s all so very interesting isn’t it? and we can all benefit from your work …. God bless you, Eileen


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